Nigerians And Handset Culture



By comrade phoenis owen

Since the explosion of GSM handset exploded in Nigeria in 2001, the system has not only revolutionized our social behaviour but has also affected our culture and inadvertently eroded our family background. Nobody but nobody can question this rather too harsh postulation.
Unless one does not want to face the reality of times, we are indeed in trouble with the GSM. There is no doubt, that it has made our life simple and less hard, it has equally brought with it a lot of social distortion and economic brigandage and pillage of a kind. Few examples may suffice.
Initially when the GSM came into being, it was considered to be for exclusively upper class members of the public. Then, some handsets including today’s Nokia touch set was costing a fortune. Some were costing over two hundred thousand naira. Even a mere SIM card was costing fifty thousand naira. A friend he could remember buying his own SIM card forty eight thousand early two thousand and one.
Three years into the emergence of GSM, handset became an attractive bait for those who wanted to join the club of upper class. It was then said that any type of matter her class or status in the society could simply fall prey to a mere brandishing of a good handset in her face. She would throw overboard her integrity and decency if only to get a set. Poor ladies. A colleague once remarked, “I don’t know whether ladies hearts were part of a handset.”
On their part, University students in particular and others in other tertiary Institutions went all out to get a hold of handset. It was so bad that many student would brandish their mathematical calculators as if they were telephone handsets. Unfortunately, stealing of GSM handset became too rampant on many campuses that many students were lynched for stealing, snatching of GSM handsets became too rampant that those who have them simply answer calls on the road or in the street, particularly where the environment isolated, making it possible for their handsets to be snatched.
On their parts, both night robbers and marauders would make their first attack GSM handsets once they broke into a house or even in dormitories where students are living, sleeping or resting. The first announcement they will make “everybody surrender your handsets.”
Although there could be so many reasons for those initial insanity and madness by many Nigerians. One of them is that Nigerians as people are too much like to embrace anything Whiteman no matter how inferior that thing might be. There are many Nigerians in the Diaspora and availability of telephone for them to reach their relations as was acutely in short supply. The result was that those in the village had no access to reaching their relations and loved ones on telephone, they had to travel to the nearest urban city where there existed NET or public telephones, where callers would line up for hours, waiting for their turns or waiting for the right hours to make the calls. Then and only then officials and operators of NITEL were local overlords.
Thirdly, since the economy was a fast growing one, our people embraced GSM with unrelenting business zeal.
Today, all that has come to pass because according to one axiom, “what goes up must come down.” Today a lot has changed in the system of GSM. Prices of SIM cards have nose-dived to the lowest ebb; many SIM cards are today being given out free of charge for any type of promotion. Each today could cost as low as fifty naira, depending on the particular carrier. In addition, GSM handsets have become too numerous with different levels of sophistications depending on the make and the country origin. Those which used to cost arms of a queen several years ago, could today be got with just few thousands of naira. Blackberry and its other contemporary handsets such as Samsung galaxy today could be got with few thousands of naira. Although some highly sophisticated ones are still high, China made equivalents are too far below the high figures although they are more attractive and fanciful, they simply don’t last as they are very fragile and light.
Unfortunately, Nigerians being what they are have developed bad telephone culture which came along with GSM. These poor behaviour are so numerous. For example, people answer calls in market places, in public places, in other person’s offices. In each case, they make the loudest noise. In the church, people take calls while the church service is going on without any respect or regard to the serenity of the Church Service. More painfully, it was reported that a Pastor while preaching in the alter requested the congregation to allow him few minutes to answer call from his caller overseas. Some members of the congregation reacted with disapproval noise and uproar. In such a circumstance, what does the Priest expect from his congregation?
GSM has promoted lying culture. People tell lies of different types with their GSM handsets. They may be in the next door but may claim that they are either in Abuja, Lagos or attending meetings in Port Harcourt.
GSM has also killed our reading culture. Students and our youths do not read not to talk of going to the libraries to read. They are very busy with their handsets, browsing or even charting with the “unknown gods or spirits in a wonder land.” Still, GSM has been promoting a lot of social misbehaviours as people use their phones for different display of deviants activities.
GSM handsets have been promoting series of accidents on our roads, in our streets. Because people speak on their phones while driving thereby loosing concentration.
Planning of all types of heinous and vicious crimes have been encouraged and advanced by GSM. These include planning and execution of armed robberies, kidnappings, etc.
There is no doubt that GSM has done the society a lot of social harm. The best thing to do now is to begin a process of legislation to curb some of these known anti-social activities GSM handsets are used to commit. Above all, the Regulating body, the communication Commission must ensure that details of every subscriber is and could easily be obtained particularly by law enforcement operatives. This may help to curb the excesses.
As things stand today, all things considered, the GSM while acknowledging its usefulness to the society has contributed in no small measures to the advancement and proliferation of crimes in the society. Something must be done about it and quickly too.